Monday, April 02, 2012

Reversing the Trend of Declining Women Coaches

This article on addresses the dearth of female coaches in a way that appropriately puts the responsibility on colleges and universities to make sure that it is reaching out to a diverse pool of candidates as well as creating a working environment that is friendly and conducive to coaches of both sexes. I have just one complaint about an obvious omission. If you want to attract female coaches, you have to make sure that your institution is doing right by lesbians. No, I don't believe that all aspiring female coaches are gay -- of course that's not true. But some are. Many are. If you want to attract the largest possible pool of female applicants, you should also be asking the following questions, in addition to the advice about that the ESPN article provides about recruiting, mentoring, networking, and supporting female coaches.
  • Does your institution have employment policies that are gay and lesbian friendly? For example, do you have a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation as a protected class, and do you offer domestic partner benefits?
  • What has your department done to address the problem of negative recruiting? (Negative recruiting is the practice of mentioning another coach's perceived lesbianism to potential recruits and their families in an effort to gain a recruiting advantage over that coach.) Do you have a zero-tolerance policy for coaches who engage in negative recruiting, and have you stood up for coaches against whom negative recruiting has been used?
  • What is the culture and climate of your athletic department? Are all coaches' partners and families welcome at events? Are gay and lesbian staff members as free as anyone else to talk openly about their partners and families?
  • Do your media guides provide equal treatment to coaches' nontraditional families, or do they only mention coaches' opposite-sex spouses?
  • Are recruiting materials using code words like "family friendly" or "Christian values" that may be signaling discomfort or exclusion of lesbian coaches?

See also, this article in New York Times about dwindling number of female head coaches in women's hockey. It too provides a comprehensive analysis of the problem, but fails to mention homophobia in sport as a contributing factor.